A high level of hygiene in the region means most common infectious diseases will not be a major concern for travelers. No special vaccinations are required, but all travelers should be up to date with standard immunizations, such as tetanus and measles.
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Before You Go
The Canadian healthcare system is one of the best in the world and excellent care is widely available. Benefits are generous for Canadian citizens, but foreigners aren’t covered, which can make treatment prohibitively expensive.
Make sure you have travel-health insurance if your regular policy doesn’t apply when you’re abroad. Find out in advance if your insurance plan will make payments directly to providers or reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures.
Bring medications in their original containers, clearly labeled. A signed, dated letter from your physician describing all medical conditions and medications, including generic names, is also a good idea. If carrying syringes or needles, be sure to have a physician’s letter documenting their medical necessity.
In British Columbia & the Canadian Rockies
Availability & Cost of Health Care
If you have a choice, treatment at a university hospital may be preferable to a community hospital, although you can often find superb medical care in small local hospitals, and the waiting time is usually shorter. If the problem isn’t urgent, you can call a nearby hospital and ask for a referral to a local physician – less expensive than a trip to the emergency room.
Pharmacies are abundantly supplied; however, you may find that some medications that are available over the counter in your home country require a prescription in Canada. In the largest cities you’ll be able to find 24-hour pharmacies, although most drugstores typically keep regular store hours.
Be aware of the following, particularly if you’re traveling in wilderness areas:
- Giardiasis A parasitic infection of the small intestine. Symptoms may include nausea, bloating, cramps and diarrhea, and may last for weeks. Avoid drinking directly from lakes, ponds, streams and rivers, which may be contaminated by animal or human feces.
- Lyme Disease Transmitted by tiny deer ticks. Mostly occurs in late spring and summer in southern areas. First symptom is usually an expanding red rash. Flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, joint pains and body aches, are also common.
- West Nile Virus Recently observed in provinces including Alberta. Transmitted by Culex mosquitoes, which are active in late summer and early fall and generally bite after dusk. Most infections are mild, but the virus may infect the central nervous system, leading to fever, headache, confusion, coma and sometimes death.
For immediate medical assistance:
BC, Alberta & Whitehorse (Yukon) 911
Yukon (except Whitehorse) 867-667-5555
Generally, if you have a medical emergency, it’s best to find the nearest hospital emergency room.